Towns punctuates Rookie of the Year campaign with huge game as Wolves blast undermanned Pelicans
Karl-Anthony Towns dominated the paint against the shorthanded Pelicans with 28 points and 15 rebounds. AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 14 rebounds and the Minnesota Timberwolves sent coach Sam Mitchell out in style with a 144-109 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in the season finale Wednesday night (Thursday, Manila time).

Gorgui Dieng had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Shabazz Muhammad scored 28 points for the Timberwolves (29-53), who learned before the game that owner Glen Taylor planned to open up a search for a new president of basketball operations and coach. Minnesota shot 65 percent, made 13 of 28 3-pointers and set a franchise record for points in a game.

Omer Asik had 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans (30-52). New Orleans had only seven healthy players in a fitting end to a season filled with injuries.

There wasn't much to play for in this one, with the Timberwolves locked into the No. 5 spot in next month's lottery and the Pelicans at No. 6.

The Pelicans had 11 players who were inactive for the finale, including star forward Anthony Davis (knee, shoulder) and forward Luke Babbitt, who missed the game with food poisoning. It's been that kind of year for the Pelicans, who have been ravaged by injuries all season long and count as one of the most disappointing teams in the league.

"We don't have room to have a pity party for ourselves," coach Alvin Gentry said. "We just have to go out and compete and play. And then try to regroup for next season."

The Pelicans just couldn't keep up with a Wolves team that found out less than an hour before tipoff that Mitchell would not be back next season. Mitchell took over just days before the season when beloved president and coach Flip Saunders died after a battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma. He turned an incredibly difficult situation into a positive by helping youngsters like Towns, Wiggins and Zach LaVine develop.

The Wolves went 15-17 down the stretch after a 14-36 start, including wins over Golden State, Portland, Oklahoma City and the Clippers all on the road. But they won fewer games at Target Center than they did away from it, and owner Glen Taylor set out to find a new president and coach.

If they were distracted in the game, they didn't show it. They rolled up 40 points in the first quarter and never looked back.

Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points, and LaVine had 19 for Minnesota.

James Ennis had 28 points and Toney Douglas had 22 for New Orleans.

RUBIO HONORED

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Before the game, Wolves assistant Ryan Saunders and Debbie Saunders, the son and wife of Flip, presented Ricky Rubio with the inaugural Flip Saunders Legacy Award for Rubio's work in the community. Rubio has a ticket program and also does extensive work with Special Olympics athletes in the area.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: Veteran Kendrick Perkins hit a 3 at the buzzer of the third quarter. But after review, officials ruled his foot was on the line. He remains 0 for 14 in his 15-year career from deep. ... Dante Cunningham returned to the city he spent two years. He scored 17 points.

Timberwolves: The 80 points in the paint were their highest output in 20 years. ... Eight players hit 3-pointers. ... The previous franchise high for points was 143 against the Lakers in 2014.

UP NEXT

Pelicans: The No. 6 spot in the lottery.

Timberwolves: The No. 5 spot in the lottery.

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